Monday, December 31, 2007

Chalkboards

Of all the things children learn, my favorites to watch are walking, talking, and reading. Each of those just dramatically widens their vistas and the kids seem so thrilled by their new abilities. Right now is fun because Jesse is learning to talk--slowly--while Levi is learning to read. The other day during lunch we made these lists of "Levi can read" and "Jesse says" on the kitchen chalkboard.


Levi's life has been filled with words and books, but now he can recognize words he sees. He spends hours circling words in his Book of Mormon or numbers in my sudoku books. He proudly asserts, "I'm a reader!" or "I'm a good learner!"--phrases he's learned from his awesome kindergarten teacher. We always tell him how learning to read is going to give him hours and hours of fun for the rest of his life.


Jesse is turning out to be a bit of a slow talker. Is there too much noise around here to compete? He understands most of what we say and will follow suggestions like "Let's go take a bath" or "You need a diaper change." We can see thoughts in his head and hear mumbo-jumbo coming out of his mouth as if he were talking--but so far ball is his best word. He carefully rounds his little mouth to make the L sound. Anybody think it's more than a coincidence that ma means mom and more and mine--kind of all the same concept for babies.


In other chalkboard news, I've hung this one right across from Roscoe and Logan's bedroom door. Every few days I write a compliment or thank-you note to keep those big boys' efforts from getting lost in our hustle to manage the little kids.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Funky

So I've basically been in a funk for, like, forever. I'm locked eternally in a house full of demanding, overenergetic children and mess, mess, MESS. (Think of the Grinch's "noise, noise, noise!") I dream of either a) solitude or b) affirming adult companionship. But no one here speaks to me except to ask for something or air grievances. From here my future looks like a vast wasteland of toil and loneliness.

(Can you tell Mark's on a dissertation blitz this weekend?)

What really sucks is that being the mother in a house full of children is what I really want. Their healthy exuberance and ongoing projects and the blessing of being here to witness it all--just what I always wanted.

So in addition to being grumpy, I'm ungrateful and unreasonable.

I need some spark to get me back to the sunny side of life.

Would you do me a huge favor? Send me a slice from your life, however small. Something you saw, or heard someone say. Something--anything. Please!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pogacha

So now I know I'm not a good blogger in December. But at the moment, Mark and the kids are gone, the washing machine is running, sadly the dishwasher isn't, but tomorrow's breakfast casserole is in the fridge and the pogacha is rising.

Of all the many domestic accomplishments of my mother's life, one of the greatest is her success capturing Micah's pogacha recipe. My mother's father was born in Yugoslavia, and his mother made pogacha, a egg-and-raisin bread, in a truly old world style: some of this, a handful of that, no set recipe.

My mother pinned down the genius, making Micah measure each handful before it went into the bowl and taking notes on all the variations of method. In the end, she created the pogacha recipe we all now follow every Christmas.


Three-year-old me watching Micah herself knead pogacha in her San Diego home. Sibs, recognize that kitchen stool? How about that apron? Both lived in our own kitchen for years. Anyone see a bit of Levi in that face of mine?

Despite Mom's genius capturing the recipe, I've always found it a bit hard to follow. So here's my rewrite of Mom's recipe--same recipe, just more detail to help you keep you from throwing away that egg white you need:

Micah's Pogacha

Soak 1/2 - 1 c white raisins in warm water
Soften 2 t yeast in 1/2 c warm water

Add the following ingredients, in the order listed, into a 4 c measuring cup:

1 c boiling water
1/4 c shortening
1/2 c sugar
2 t salt
1/2 c milk
2/4 t lemon extract
4 drops yellow food color
3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg, beaten
(Here's the tricky part: Take 2 T from this egg mixture and put it in a small bowl. Also, put in this small bowl 1 egg white.)

Add warm water to the above mixture to make a total of 3 c

Add yeast (with its water) and raisin (without its water) to the above mixture. Add 3 c flour. Add about 3 c more until dough is soft and holds together. Knead 10 minutes. Let rise til double.

Form into 2 round loaves in sprayed pie pans. Let rise again. Brush top with that small bowl of egg you saved. Split top in thirds using sharp knife.

Bake 20 minutes at 375. Then bake 20 more minutes at 350.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A green cardigan

In celebration of my 15th wedding anniversary, two stories:


Our first date

My roommates were planning a trip to a Salt Lake haunted house. I never hung out with my roommates and never went to haunted houses. But I saw this as an opportunity to hook up with this guy Mark who was roommates with my best friend’s boyfriend and who appeared interested in me (and apparently I was interested in him).

So I phoned him up and asked if he wanted to go to an “open house” with me. He didn’t understand what kind of open house we were going to, but said sure. And thus began our courtship based on misunderstandings and false cues.

When we arrived at the haunted house, I remembered why I don’t like them. We started dutifully walking through fog-filled corridors while underpaid creepos in mummy costumes leered at us. I held onto Mark’s upper arm as we navigated the dark corners. He perceived this as a major come-on. It wasn’t. He slid my hand down his arm and into his hand. I perceived this as a distinct come-on. He claims it wasn’t.

But this, I think we both will agree, was definitely a come-on: I found myself being led by the hand down a dark, deserted corridor. Mark said, “What’s your last name?”

“Ashurst,” I said. “Why?”

“No reason.” Pause. “What’s your middle name?”

“Michelle. Why?”

“No reason.”

Mark then planted on me a very tender and soft kiss. He claims this was not his usual first-date M.O. And thus began our courtship full of many, many, many such kisses.

Our second date

Mark and his roommate who was dating my best friend planned a birthday outing for me. They picked me up from my house, drove me to Saver’s (an Orem thrift store), and presented me with an assortment of “F.D. bucks.” Funny money emblazoned with kooky Mormon symbols.


“What’s F.D.?” I asked. False Doctrine. Why? No one, including Mark, knows. But thus began our relationship marked by ongoing intrusions from Mark’s strange musings on Mormon history and doctrine.

We strolled through Saver’s as I made my purchases with my F.D. bucks. One of those purchases was this puke green wool cardigan.

Cable stitched. At least 30 years old. Originally a crewneck that was converted by hand by a previous owner. I have worn this sweater for the last 15 years. Who doesn’t need a cable stitched cardigan? Well, some people don’t, but I do. I’ve worn it with those huge flowery pants I used to make, with those patchwork bellbottoms I bought at a Grateful Dead concert, with maternity jeans, and with cargo pants with binkies in the pockets.

Some time ago I decided that since the sweater is now thinning and full of holes, I’d ceremonially get rid of it on this day. But now I find I can’t. I think it’ll go in my keepsake chest (which, incidentally, also contains those Deadhead bellbottoms).

Maybe this sweater is a symbol of my relationship with Mark: A bit quirky. Not something you can buy off the shelf. Customized by hand. But a classic. Long lasting. Suitable for all seasons and styles.


Oh, I do love that man. Here’s to the next fifteen years.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Logan logs double digits

In a momentous weekend, Logan rolled it over into double digits. He turned 10 on Sunday at 4:57 p.m.--which is just the kind of detail that Logan remembers.

To start the festivities, Logan and Roscoe both graduated to blue belt in karate. They are both looking very sharp these days and clearly making a lot of progress.

On Friday, I made this electric guitar cake for Logan's birthday party. I experienced technical difficulties with the icing tools and therefore conveniently decided on this edgy style.



Logan, Levi, and 6 friends enjoyed a pizza dinner and a viewing of Napoleon Dynamite. They discussed belching throughout the entire meal, and I let them.






On Sunday Logan opened his presents from his parents and grandparents, most notably, this cool, blue, junior-sized electric guitar.


Logan has been asking for an electric guitar for years, and I poo-pooed him until one Thanksgiving when he had the chance to try out Cousin Eric's guitar. Logan looked so thrilled, so natural, so like a fish who had finally found water, and so cool that I began to let go of my dream that Logan play the piano. Finally, we struck the deal that if Logan showed his commitment and dependability by faithfully practicing piano for a year, then he could have an electric guitar. He held up his side of the bargain, and now, so have I.



As you know, I face Logan's second decade with some trepidation. I've have lots of second and third thoughts about launching him into the world of butt-rock and reverb at this tender age. My hope is that Logan will see that by giving him this guitar I am buying into his dreams and supporting him in being him. Maybe if I give him tools to pursue his dreams, he won't feel he has to fight me to get there.


Maybe this picture can be the symbol of Logan's second decade.

Yes, he's playing an electric guitar. But he's nestled in the loving arms of his mother, who shows him both how to manage the frets and how to feel the spirit and choose the right.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update on everyone

Jesse
Seems to have recovered--mostly--from a cute little rash all over his little self. Maybe roseola?

Haley
Is totally flummoxed by her fever, which is a doozy. I keep telling her, "You are so sick and it makes you sad--but it's okay! Just rest here until your body makes you all better."

Levi
Recites long portions of dialogue from his favorite movies, using voices. His Spiderman/Green Goblin dialogue with "No matter what you do for them, eventually, they will hate you" is downright creepy.

Logan
Has the world's worst hair. A total dog pelt of what was, a few months ago, a cute buzz. When oh when will his mother fix it?

Roscoe
Has lost his Spanish book. His teacher says it will cost $80 to replace it. But it's somewhere on this earth, so why can't I just get it back?

Mark
Hasn't laid eyes on Jesse since, I think, last Sunday. He's on dissertation blitz, passes through late in the night, then is out the door before Jesse is awake.

Angela
I must admit, is getting tired.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Two tiny tips

Life is squeezed too overfull for any creative musing to come leaking out. Instead, here are two tried-and-tried tips. Totally effective, totally low-tech, all for mere pennies. If only life were so simple.

1.
To get rid of a wart, make a little band-aid strip out of duct tape and wear it for a few days. It suffocates the wart and voila.

2.
This one is stolen from my friend at Mythbuster Beauty. Smash two aspirin in a cup, add a few drops of water, and spread the grit over your face and neck. Rinse off in 10 minutes or so and you'll have lovely, silkly smooth skin. I adore this.

What is your favorite household tip?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

24 hrs of pictures

We've had lots of excitement in the last twenty-four hours. First and foremost, yesterday was Haley's fourth birthday!



I wasn't there when Haley was born--this is only the second birthday she's celebrated with us--but I may love her birthday the most. I'm so happy to see how far she's come and how much she's grown in so many ways. She's growing like a happy flower and I'm so glad she's here in our family to do so.


Mark's birthday is on Monday, but we celebrated his with Haley's. (So he can dissertate like mad all week while his parents are here helping me out.)


Can you special I got this awesome shot of blowing out the candles?


Here's Haley with some of her birthday presents: The Daring Book for Girls, which is super fun and a companion to The Dangerous Book for Boys.

This is the dollhouse made from the little Ikea bookcase. A few months ago I ordered a bunch of free wallpaper samples from Graham & Brown. I mounted them on the backing. (Clearly, I wasn't thinking little-girls'-dollhouse when I ordered the designs.) I think this is much cooler than a super-pink dollhouse, and it can revert to a bookshelf when needed.

Today Haley wore her Christmas dress from Grandma Ashurst to church and gave a talk in Primary. I paperclipped together some pages from this little Nativity book from Tomie De Paola so she only turned to a handful of pages. Then I taught her a little sentence to go with each picture, like "Mary and Joseph were on a trip" and "The shepherds saw Jesus." This is another sign of how much she's growing. Even a few months ago she could never have learned it all, but this time she had no trouble. She stood right up, delivered her lines pefectly--and independently.

Levi has been studying gingerbread men in school--don't you love kindergarten? So I promised we'd make read gingerbread people. Here are Haley and Levi decorating.



Meanwhile, Grandma made some of her famous Christmas pumpkin bread. Molasses, walnuts, pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves--all kinds of delicious scents.





And Jesse rolled out some gingerbread of his own. :)


Friday, December 7, 2007

Lightning Strikes Twice

I once wrote that I've never met anyone like my son Logan. Except, amazingly, my son Levi is a lot like Logan. Same swagger. Same flair. Same amazing ability to remember names and dates as he expands his social network.

Case in point: Here's a memorable quotation from Logan several years ago. One night we were riding in the car, and Logan spun this tale:

Once there was a happy family: Logan, Roscoe, Angela, Mark, and Levi. They were all Qshurst-McGees. Levi Christian Qshurst-McGee, Angela Michelle Qshurst-McGee, Roscoe HenryQshurst-McGee. Mark Roscoe Qshurst-McGee.

At this point Mark and I were chuckling contentedly, enjoying this story of family love. Then Logan continued:

But one had the longest name of all. Logan. He was the fastest. He was the best.

Yesterday, Levi was drawing and I hear him say:

Oh man, I messed up! I'm trying to make the most happiest person in the
world--eats good food, listens to his teacher, and does all good stuff. A person
like me! ... And then I'll put some Spiderman stickers on.

Yesterday I snuck up on Levi while he was deeply absorbed in some make-believe between a little Obi-Wan and a lion. I love the way kids his age go so deep in their play. I also love how in this clip you can see the moment when Levi realizes I'm stalking him. He tries to play it cool for a moment, then gives in.

video

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Holiday Whirl

Do you hear that rushing sound? It's the sound of money flowing out of my account. I'm having a shopping meltdown. In the last 24 hours, I have purchased

  • 1 black, junior-sized electric guitar with amp (Logan's birthday present; more on this later)
  • 1 bookcase (will become a dollhouse for Haley's birthday present)
  • 1 desktop computer (everyone's Christmas present--from you, Mom! Check it out--it's only $200! http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=7754613)
  • 1 chandelier (Mom's Christmas present to me; Nancy I think it's the same one as yours)
  • 1 twin-sized duvet cover (I have the idea that Logan will keep his bed more in order if he doesn't have to manage separate sheets and blankets)
  • 5.25 yards fleece (something fun in the works for J&J's kids)
  • 1 yard brocade (Nancy, I'm recovering my blue striped memo board with something funkier)
  • 2 personal pizzas (plus 1 Levi got for free for doing this month's reading log)
  • 6 Ikea kids' meals (to allow time for all that shopping)

And that doesn't include the bionicles, transformers, movies, and art supplies I've bought on previous occasions or that the kids bought for each other.

Can you believe that? And I'm not a major gift-buyer. The kids each get one thing from me for their birthday--but I have three birthdays in the next week. And this year I'm doing Mom's shopping. Oh, and the next week is my 15th wedding anniversary, an event you would think would get some special notice, but may get lost in the fray.

3 birthdays + Christmas x 7 kids = Madness

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

MRS Course Requirements

At BYU, where I went to school, there are lots of jokes about young women getting their “MRS” degree. I took a demanding load of random classes: Art and Technology, Environmental Biology, The Philosophy of Wealth, Cultures of Africa, Advanced Literary Theory. And I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the result. I went on to get a master’s degree in women’s studies and folklore--all of which is patently unmarketable--but I feel everything I ever learned has helped me to be a better mother. Also I think the fact that I got an education helps me feel more content with my choice to be a housewife.

As a student of third-wave feminism (the first wave being the suffrage movement, the second wave being the 1970s emphasis on equal rights and women’s access to the workplace), I learned that women today should feel empowered to make whatever life choices they wish--including seemingly unenlightened choices such as being a housewife and spending days nurturing children, keeping house, and supporting husband.

Nevertheless, there are some gaps in my education. Things that as a housewife I would really benefit from knowing. I have gone through BYU’s entire course catalog and compiled the following list of classes future housewives should take. In this post-feminist world, let’s admit it: Lots of us girls are going to choose to grow up to be housewives.

Here, for your education and enlightenment, is my courselist for your MRS degree.

(I’ve omitted anything from the following departments: Home and Family Living, Education, Religion, and Marriage Family and Human Development. Anything from those departments would fill degree requirements. Although, it’s both feasible and enjoyable to learn things like cooking, sewing, and interior design on the fly as a mom.)

Accounting 200: Principles of Accounting
I do resumes for people who manage the finances of major corporations through major organizational changes. And then I struggle to keep our family finances straight. I wish I were better educated in this area so my simple household budget looked easy.

Accounting 320: Introductory Income Tax
Over the years I’ve wrestled thousands of dollars for our family from our income tax returns. What if I was actually educated in this area? And what’ll I do now that I have business expenses to consider?

American Sign Language 101: Conversation ASL
I love the trend of teaching babies some basic sign language for those months when they know what you’re saying, know what they want to say, but can’t talk yet. What a nightmare for poor them! And a nightmare for Mom as Baby resorts to screaming and whining. Also, very helpful for telling kids what to do from across the room or during sacrament meeting. How many times have I looked down the pew and wished I knew the signs for, “Please pass the diaper bag down here” or “Where’s the binkie?”

American Sign Language 301: Deaf Culture
This one would be fun, but I include it as a joke. What housewife hasn’t spent days thinking, “Is everyone here deaf?”

Ancient Near Eastern Studies 310: History and Culture of Ancient Israel
For explaining Bible stories and imagery to children with some accuracy.

Anthropology 101: Social/Cultural Anthropology
I was an Anthropology minor in college. I unreservedly and passionately recommend that everyone take this class. Everything you think is just human nature? Culture. Just the way it is? Nope, culture. This class will permanently change your perception of the world and make you grateful for what a crazy, rich place it is.

Business Management: Personal Finance / Planning for Financial Security at Retirement / Basic Entrepreneurship Skills / E-Business Lecture Series
How many housewives end up starting a business? How many more wish they knew how?

Construction Management 311: Quantity Takeoffs
Course description: “Compiling, organizing, and analyzing all the items that influence and contribute to total cost of residential and commercial construction projects.” How many housewives end up needing to know how to manage the cost of residential construction projects?

English 220: Composing Personal History
As an English graduate, I’m a big fan of taking all sorts of literature courses. But this one seemed most relevant for housewives. We’re often the only ones witnessing our children’s histories, and certainly the only ones who will take steps to record it.

French and Spanish 101

I’m certain Roscoe would be flunking Spanish right now if I didn’t know enough to help him with his homework and say “Si hijito, muy bien” when he gets it right.

Information Systems 105: Creating Personal Web Pages

Microbiology and Molecular Biology 221: General Microbiology
Course description: “Microbial world, emphasizing communicable diseases, their causes, and control.” How much time do you spend trying to understand and control communicable diseases?

Organizational Behavior 347: Managerial Leadership Development
How to be a good leader. Isn’t most of being a housewife about getting people to do what you want?

Visual Arts-Photography 210: Introduction to Digital Imaging
Visual Arts-Photography 275: Classical Portrait Photography

This is probably the one I wish for most often. I have all these beautiful children doing charming things and I take terrible pictures of them.

Women’s Studies 392R: Women’s Studies Colloquium
One of the best things I did in college was learn about the history of women’s lives and feminism. I think that when you’re penned in your house helping everyone else in the family go and thrive in the world, it’s nice to feel that you were fully informed about your choices. Plus I resist that feeling that feminism and women’s history is scary. We should know who we are, girls!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Snowy Saturday

Today was the first real snow of the year, and it was a big one. Like six inches. It came down all morning. The kids bundled up and spent the day playing in the snow and shovelling the driveway...over and over again. Have you heard the one about how cleaning house before your children are grown is like shovelling the walk while it's still snowing. So true. And yet, people in snowy climes know that you do have to shovel while it's still snowing before the snow gets all compressed and refrozen and there's too much to shovel at one time.







Rosoce, Haley, Logan, and Levi on the snowy tramp. Haley is wearing a little pink dress and striped tights. I pointed out to her the wisdom of wearing pants in the snow but she was too enamored of the tights to change out of them.




When Levi came in his cheeks were bright pink. This may have had something to do with the fact that Logan rubbed his face in the snow.



Suiting up for snow for the first time of the season involved lots of searching for the preferred gloves or mittens, dumping out the entire shoe basket--and all the dirty socks therein--in search of a mitten's mate. Our house has no coat closet--no closet on the entire main floor--so the little nook to the garage has little coat hooks and the shoe basket and we try to make that work.

Today I had a brainstorm on how to keep the kids organized. I got this shoe organizer at Target. Each kid has a row, where they keep their everyday gloves, snow gloves, hat, flipflops, or whatever. I'm thrilled with the prospect of a winter without the daily hassle of locating this or that. Now instead of rummaging through the shoe basket for a workable but mismatched pair, each child has their own stuff to keep track of and place to put it. Mark cannot understand why I would even mention it, but you know, don't you.